This story is part of our Cavalcade special edition on local businesses. Read the rest of the stories here.
CALDWELL — My favorite tamales in the world are from the Tamale Factory, previously known as Lucy's Tamales in San Jose, California.
My mom used to buy two dozen tamales every few weeks from the Tamale Factory when I was a kid. My absolute favorite kind of tamale are queso con rajas, or cheese with jalapeño. Even when I went to college in Reno, Nevada, every time I saw my mom or visited home she would pack me up half a dozen frozen tamales to bring back with me.
Maybe it's because I associate those tamales with my childhood, my city and my family, but I have not had a queso con rajas tamale that compares to the Tamale Factory's. However, I was visiting La Esperanza Bakery in Caldwell for some pan dulce, when I tasted a tamale that came close.
I have a persistent sweet tooth and wanted something to satisfy it one day on my drive back home to Boise from Nampa. So I grabbed a couple conchas and some cookies from La Esperanza, nestled across from Walmart in a strip mall.
As I was picking up the conchas, the woman at the counter asked if I had ever had their tamales. When said no, she asked me what my favorite tamale is. I told her queso con rajas, and she grabbed a tamale out of the giant steamer and wrapped it up for me.
"It is hot, but it should be a perfect temperature by the time you get home," she said.
When I got home, I was skeptical, but curious.
I didn't even need to microwave the tamale, it was still warm. Steam rose while I cut it open and took the first bite. It almost brought me home. Needless to say the next day after work I picked up a dozen tamales and will store them in my freezer, likely not for long.
As for the conchas, those didn't last long either. They were fresh from the oven and, of course, I started eating them on my way home. When I bit into the first one, a chocolate one, I couldn't stop. It was so good. Warm and cozy. I associate comfort food with rice and pasta, but I have never been as comforted by pasta as I was by the conchas.
If you go, La Esperanza Bakery is located in the Clearwater Plaza at 5216 Cleveland Blvd. C, Caldwell. It is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.